Winter sports, such as ice skating, snow skiing, tobogganing and sledding may serve as a great way to get outdoors and exercise, but also can result in injury if proper safety precautions are not practiced. Common injuries include ankle sprains and muscle strains, dislocations or fractures. As part of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons'(AAOS) on-going Prevent Injuries America!® campaign, the AAOS urges children and adults to consider these winter sports injury prevention tips before braving the snow.


-- More than 350,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors' offices and emergency rooms for winter sports-related injuries in 2009, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission


-- Check the weather for snow and ice conditions prior to participating. Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature to ensure safety while outdoors. Skiers and snowboarders should make adjustments for icy conditions, deep snow powder, wet snow, and adverse weather conditions.

-- Dress for the occasion. Wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Layering allows you to accommodate your body's constantly changing temperature.

-- Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding. Also, check that all equipment, such as ski and snowboard bindings are in good working order.

-- Skiers and snowboarders should buy boots and bindings that have been set, adjusted, maintained and tested by a ski shop that follows American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard job practices.

-- Never participate alone in a winter sport. If possible, skiers and snowboarders should go with partners and stay within sight of each other. If one partner loses the other, stop and wait. Also, make sure someone who is not participating is aware of your plans and probable whereabouts before heading outdoors.

-- Skiers and snowboarders should stay on marked trails and avoid potential avalanche areas such as steep hillsides with little vegetation.

-- Avoid sledding near or on public streets. Sledding should be done only in designated and approved areas where there are no obstacles in the sledding path. Speeding down hills in parks that are not designed for sledding puts you at risk to be hit by cars and trucks or slam into parked vehicles, curbs, and fences.

-- Sit in a forward-facing position when sledding and steer using your feet or the rope steering handles for better control of the sled.

-- Warm up thoroughly before playing. Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are vulnerable to injury.

-- The warm up should be a good 10 minutes of walking, slow jogging or working on the exercise bike. This is to help increase your heart rate and blood flow to your muscles.

-- Skiers and snowboarders should take a couple of slow runs to warm up.

-- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after outdoor activities. Don't drink alcohol as it can increase your chances of hypothermia.

-- Keep in shape and condition muscles before partaking in winter activities. If over the age of 50, it may be wise to have a medical check-up prior to participating in a winter sport.

-- Know and abide by all rules of the sport in which you are participating.

-- Take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor, especially in sports like skiing and snowboarding. Learning how to fall correctly and safely can reduce the risk of injury.

-- Falling techniques aim to protect your vulnerable body parts. If skiing, learn how to hold the poles with the strap (not through your thumb webs space) to avoid skiers thumb.

-- If you do fall, try to break your fall with your arms flexible, landing first on your hands and wrists, but let your elbows bend into the fall. Then, try to roll onto the back part of your shoulder. Bad wrist fractures tend to be from falling on arms held out stiff.

-- Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you, or anyone with you, is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite. Early frostbite symptoms include: numbness and tingling in you digits, lack of feeling and poor motion.

-- Avoid participating in sports when you are in pain or exhausted. Many skiers are injured on the final, "one last run" -- if tired, call it a day.

-- If injured during any winter excursion and pain or discomfort persists, follow up with an orthopedic surgeon to examine the injury.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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